Nature is abundant in curious, and rare species, many of which are still not discovered. Well, if you thought you knew everything about sharks, you were wrong!
Earlier this year, researchers have discovered four new shark species that use their fins to walk across sea floors and reefs! Their findings have been published in a Marine and Freshwater Research journal.
The peculiar sea creatures have been found in the shallow tropical waters of the Indo-Australian Archipelago, that lies between mainland Indonesia and the north-west coast of Australia, while the scientists were working on a 12-year global conservation study.
The brightly colored sharks are about one meter in size, and apart from their ability to swim, they can also use their pectoral fins in the front and pelvic fins at the back to move along the seafloor.
According to scientists, they are apex predators within their environment, shallow waters around reefs, as they can wriggle between rock pools and chase down their prey.
Dr. Christine Dudgeon of the University of Queensland said:
“At less than a meter (3.2 feet) long on average, walking sharks present no threat to people but their ability to withstand low oxygen environments and walk on their fins gives them a remarkable edge over their prey of small crustaceans and mollusks.”
The newly discovered species bring to a total of 9 walking sharks discovered so far, scientifically known as ‘epaulette’ sharks.
The natural habitat of these sharks is also known as The Coral Triangle, which includes waters around New Guinea and north Australia, and is often depicted as one of the “most biodiverse” places on the planet.
Dr. Dudgeon adds:
“Data suggests the new species evolved after the sharks moved away from their original population, became genetically isolated in new areas and developed into new species.
They may have moved by swimming or walking on their fins, but it’s also possible they ‘hitched’ a ride on reefs moving westward across the top of New Guinea, about two million years ago. We believe there are more walking shark species still waiting to be discovered.”
Overfishing and habitat loss have threatened the populations of sharks, and at least three of these nine walking sharks species are already listed as “animals at risk” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Co-author Mark Erdmann from the Conservation International, one of the agencies involved in the project, added:
“A global recognition of the need to protect walking sharks will help ensure they thrive providing benefits for marine ecosystems and to local communities through the sharks’ value as tourism assets.
It’s essential that local communities, governments, and the international public continue working to establish marine protected areas to help ensure our ocean’s biodiversity continues to flourish.”